In a comparative investigation of AIDS education programmes for gay men, 159 homosexually active males in Auckland, New Zealand, were randomly assigned to one of five experimental conditions: watching a video on AIDS, individual counselling for HIV, a group programme on AIDS which included guide-lines on safer sex, a group programme on eroticizing safer sex and a control condition. At baseline 74.7%, and at 6-month follow-up 82.7% of the sample reported only safer sex practices during the previous 2 months. The relapse rate of those engaging in exclusively safer sex behaviour was estimated to be 6.6%, while 48.5% of the unsafe sex group remained unsafe. No significant differences (at P < 0.05) were detected between the effectiveness of different interventions when safer sex was measured as a global term, although trend analysis (P < 0.10) showed individual counselling to be more efficacious. Different interventions did, however, significantly affect condom usage, monogamy and avoidance of anal intercourse in different ways, as well as affecting overall sexual behaviour. The implications of these findings on education planning for AIDS in comparatively low HIV-prevalence areas, together with the need to develop more appropriate health education models, are discussed.